Tune in for a cause, good time

By on February 27, 2009

by Susan O’Neill
Hundreds of entertainers, politicians, volunteers and community supporters will be on hand for the Association for Individual Development’s 10th annual telethon, held Saturday, Feb. 28, at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove.

Geneva Mayor Ken Burns will serve as one of the emcees for the 10-hour program, which may also be viewed on local access channels beginning at 9 a.m. Entertainers will include acts such as the State Street Dance Company, vocalist Ninfa Lear and Johnny Cash impersonator Jerry Hutson.

AID clients will put on a fashion show and state Sen. Chris Lauzen and state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia will speak, while 20 volunteers take pledges on the phone.

AID is a social service agency that serves children and adults with developmental or physical disabilities or mental illness in a six-county area that includes Kane. The organization serves approximately 4,200 clients in more than 26 communities through upwards of 20 programs, including job training and employment coaching programs, respite care and housing.

With the current state of the economy, however, AID is suffering from the same kinds of problems as are most other agencies and businesses, Executive Director Lynn O’Shea said. During this time, private donations, such as those raised during the telethon, become even more important.

According to O’Shea, with 70 percent of AID’s funding coming from state and federal Medicaid revenue, the agency has been affected in two ways. First, the agency has experienced several rounds of cuts in its funding from the state in the past year. In addition, the state has delayed paying its bills, so AID has to wait longer to obtain the money it does receive. This has caused the agency to have to borrow money to continue operating.

“The net effect on potential new clients is that, unless you’re a single parent or are over 65, you have no hope of getting services for your child,” she said.

Currently, there are more than 750 people waiting for services. O’Shea explained that in the past, when students left special education programs at age 22, they would either work at a job or go to school.

With funding cuts for programs that would typically serve these young adults, they are currently on a 15-year waiting list.

The wait for housing programs is even longer, with a 29-year waiting period to get into a group home or an apartment. The agency sponsors 27 homes and apartments. O’Shea said that in good times, AID would work to develop another home. However, AID has not been able to place any adults in programs since July 2008.

“Our waiting lists have never been this long.” She said. “It’s a very worrisome situation.”

Private donations make up 30 percent of the agency’s funding. O’Shea said the economy has affected everyone, and with many people losing their jobs, they are often not in a position to either increase or continue giving at the same level.

Up until Christmas, donations were the same. However, since then, there has been a 20 percent decrease from last year.

“I have to believe we’re at the bottom and things will start looking up,” she said. “Our donors are terrific. I’ve got to believe they will be as generous as they can be, to help plug some of the gaps.”

The theme for this year’s telethon is, “When friends reach for your hand, they touch your heart.”
Approximately 1,000 volunteers have participated in making this year’s telethon. AID hopes for $125,000 in pledges. Tune in to Comcast channels 17 or 99 or Mediacom channel 15, or call (630) 466-2494 to make a donation.

AID Telethon
10th Annual telethon to benefit the Association for Individual Development
Saturday, Feb. 28
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Waubonsee Community College
Tune in to watch at Comcast channels 17 and 99 or Mediacom channel 15
(630) 466-2494
for pledges or donations
For more information about AID, visit
www.the-association.org